Yasir Saeidan fell short of winning the FIA T2 World Championship in 2016, but the Saudi Arabian driver arrives on the shores of the Caspian Sea to take part in the inaugural Rally Kazakhstan with a commanding 49-point championship lead. The event gets underway from Aktau City on Sunday (May 21).
The Toyota Land Cruiser driver has been a model of consistency this season and victories in Baja Russia, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Qatar Cross-Country Rally and third position in the Dubai International Baja have put the Saudi firmly on course to win back the title for series production cross-country vehicles that he lost in the FIA appeal court after the 2016 season had finished. Frenchman Laurent Lichtleuchter will co-drive.
Nissan’s Adel Abdulla knows that nothing short of victory will be sufficient if the Qatari is to stand any chance of retaining his title. He and French navigator Sébastien Delaunay will use a Nissan Patrol Y62 prepared by TOK Sport.
Minor problems and persistent misfortune sees him arrive in Aktau City trailing Saeidan by 90 points after a non-finish at his home event in Qatar with the QX Rally Team Nissan last month. Second place in Dubai was the best result so far this season for the Doha-based driver, although he has set several fastest stage times.
“I know that this rally is just so important,” said Adel. “I have to win, simple as that. I need the 50 points. I have to close the gap at the top. There are plenty of events left yet, but it has not been my year so far.”
Mansoor Al-Helai features on the original entry list issued by the Automotorsport Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, but the Emirati and navigator Khalid Al-Kendi have not made the trip to Central Asia because of logistical difficulties. That means the son of the experienced Abu Dhabi driver Yayha Al-Helai will not be able to challenge Saeidan and could well fall into the clutches of Adel Abdulla if the Qatari enjoys a good run through the western deserts of the eighth largest country by land mass on the planet.
Rally Kazakhstan President Marat Abykayev and fellow countrymen Kirill Chernenkov and Pavel Loginov will also be hoping for podium finishes on their home event. Abykayev lies eighth in the points’ standings after his second position in Baja Russia back in February.
After weeks of dry weather, heavy rain has lashed the area in the last few days, but the forecast is for brighter, warmer weather during the six days of competition. In a compact route of around 2,500km before the finish in Aktau City on May 27, over 1,850km will be timed against the clock.
FIA T2 Cross-Country Rally World Cup – positions after round 4
- Yasir Saeidan (SAU) 140pts
- Mansoor Al-Helai (ARE) 91pts
- Adel Abdulla (QAT) 50pts
- Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU) 36pts
- Mohammed Al-Harqan (QAT) 30pts
- Ahmed Al-Malki (SAU) 27pts
- Emil Khneisser (LEB) 24pts
- Marat Abykayev (KAZ) 18pts